IBM researcher to increase memory densities 100-fold

— 1:09 PM on September 13, 2007

An IBM researcher whose work on giant magnetoresistance helped hard drive capacities skyrocket in the 1990s is at it again, according to a report by the New York Times. The paper says Stuart S. P. Parkin—an IBM research fellow—is now working on a universal type of memory that could replace both RAM and flash memory and store a hundred times more data than chips available today. This new memory is based on a concept known as "racetrack memory":

[Parkin's] idea is to stand billions of ultrafine wire loops around the edge of a silicon chip — hence the name racetrack — and use electric current to slide infinitesimally small magnets up and down along each of the wires to be read and written as digital ones and zeros.

His research group is able to slide the tiny magnets along notched nanowires at speeds greater than 100 meters a second. Since the tiny magnetic domains have to travel only submolecular distances, it is possible to read and write magnetic regions with different polarization as quickly as a single nanosecond — far faster than existing storage technologies.

The New York Times says if the racetrack idea can be commercialized, it will "take microelectronics completely into the third dimension and thus explode the two-dimensional limits of Moore’s Law." Parkin's technology could reportedly begin to replace flash memory in "three to five years."

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